Paul Johnson

Aesthetes on Trial

What Good are the Arts?


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 350pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

The first five chapters of this book are based on the Northcliffe Lectures Professor Carey gave at University College London last year. To these he has added two chapters on the importance of English literature. The little book which emerges from this conjunction is contradictory: Carey seems to think that the arts are not much use, with the exception of literature, presumably because he cares deeply about writing but is not emotionally involved with the other arts. On the other hand, the book is well written, incisive, entertaining and thought-provoking, and anyone with the smallest intellectual pretensions will be the better for reading it.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,